RIP, Tropic Cay: Fort Lauderdale Beach Loses Its Last Old-School Dive Bar

RIP, Tropic Cay: Fort Lauderdale Beach Loses Its Last Old-School Dive BarEXPAND
Photo courtesy of Milei.vencel via Wikimedia Commons

The universe is a vast, bullying, uncaring place. If you need any further evidence of this fact, here you go: The Tropic Cay is no more. 

Today, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and likely who's who of city officials and business types are going to be collecting at the beach around noon for the ceremonial backslaps that accompany a major project's groundbreaking. In this case, the fanfare is for the Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences Fort Lauderdale, a 23-story glamour pad that will inject some serious swank into the beach's northern end.

But today isn't as much a christening as a wake. Today, developers and politicians will watch as the Tropic Cay is demolished to make room for the new project. There's no better visual symbol for Fort Lauderdale's future literally swallowing up its past. 

You probably didn't get over to the Tropic Cay much unless you were a 1. partying college student visiting from a Big Ten university; 2. a felon trying to lay low; 3. a would-be felon looking to conduct some illegal business is a quiet place; 4. a dive bar aficionado. You can count us in the last category. 

The motel itself was just a simple, no-budget stack of rooms, a holdover from a time when such amenities were the dominate housing options on the beach. But the Tropic Cay also had a poolside bar that was as affordable as it was dingy. And over the past decade, as Old-School Florida has been quickly been squeezed out by bubble-economy hotel projects and expensive oceanfront development, the Tropic Cay was the last of its kind — a place where you could get a beer on the cheap while not being stampeded by flocks of drunk bros down from Wisconsin.

But the Tropic Cay — especially its bar — was special. Not only did New Times crown it the Best Beach Bar in 2013, the establishment also played a key role in our 2014 search for dollar beers — and just plain affordable living — in South Florida. The Tropic Cay didn't sling the coveted dollar draft, but it was by far the most entertaining spot we visited, a holding pen of daily drinkers and ne'er-do-wells — not your Four Seasons types. 

Once they rubble the building today, actual construction is reportedly on track to begin early next year. The Four Seasons location will have 150 hotel rooms as well as 95 private residences on the complex, plus all the pool and spa bells and whistles. The project is being helmed by the Fort Partners and Merrimac Ventures.

A price hasn't really been kicked around on what the Four Seasons will cost, but you can guess it'll be expensive. Once again, the project promises glitz and high-end living, the further South Beachification of Fort Lauderdale that we've already seen with some of the nicer new projects. It makes sense for city leaders to want to attract that kind of business to the beach. But Fort Lauderdale isn't Miami Beach, and one fewer dive is a sad day for all of South Florida. 

RIP, Tropic Cay.

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